WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Iran is posing a gut check for Congress, brazenly testing whether the House and Senate will exert their own authority over U.S. military strategy or cede more war powers to the White House.
As tensions rise over the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold House votes this week to limit Trump’s ability to engage militarily. A Senate vote is expected to soon follow. Yet Congress has shown time and again it is unable to exert its ability to authorize or halt military actions.
By its inaction, it has allowed the president determine the outcome.
On Monday, top Pentagon leaders said the United States has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, despite a draft letter from a senior military officer that appeared to suggest preparations for withdrawal were underway.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the U.S. is “moving forces around” Iraq and neighboring Kuwait.
He says a draft letter circulated internally by a U.S. Marine commander was a “poorly written” honest mistake that should never have gotten out.
On Capitol Hill, two top Senate Democrats are calling on President Donald Trump to immediately declassify the administration’s reasoning for the deadly strike on an Iranian official.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s Sen. Robert Menendez say there’s “no legitimate justification” for keeping the information from the public.
Schumer and Menendez say in a Monday letter to Trump the White House’s classified notification sent to Congress Saturday under the War Powers Act was insufficient.
Trump has warned the U.S. will levy harsh sanctions against Iraq if it expels American troops in retaliation for the strike in Baghdad that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
But the push to oust U.S. troops from Iraq is gaining momentum, bolstered by a Parliament vote in favor of a bill calling on the Iraqi government remove them.
The path forward is unclear. In Iraq’s deeply divided terrain, with a resigned prime minister and raging proxy war between Iran and the U.S., ending America’s 17-year military presence in Iraq is a risky undertaking and won’t be easy.
It could lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State group and further entrench Iran.
In Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered prayers Monday and wept over the casket of Soleimani.
It was a rare display of emotion from the typically reserved and measured Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His voice cracked as he prayed during a funeral that drew throngs of people to Iran’s capital of Tehran.
The massive crowd wailed in response. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top officials stood beside Khamenei.
The emotion showcased the depth of the bond Khamenei had with Soleimani and gave insight into how his death is being felt personally by the supreme leader.
It could also impact how Khamenei responds to the United States.
Soleimani’s killing Friday in a U.S. drone strike has prompted a vow by his successor to take revenge.
Also, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying.
Separately, Iraq’s parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.